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Europa Clipper



The Europa Clipper mission is designed to go into an orbit around Jupiter that will allow multiple close flybys of its moon Europa. The goal of the mission is to gather data on Europa at each flyby to determine its habitability. The primary science objectives are: 1) characterize the ice shell and any subsurface water, including their heterogeneity, ocean properties, and the nature of surface-ice-ocean interchange; 2) understand the habitability of Europa's ocean through composition and chemistry; and 3) understand the formation of surface features, including sites of recent or current activity, and characterize high science interest localities.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

Europa Clipper consists of a cylindrically shaped main bus with a truncated cone on one end and a box-like structure on the other, totaling approximately 5 meters in length. Two rectangular solar panel wings, with a total span of 30.5 meters, extend out radially from opposite sides of the cylinder, with a 3 meter high-gain dish antenna mounted perpendicular to the wings on the cylinder, and a box-like structure on the side opposite the antenna. A boom extends at an angle from just below the truncated cone. The dry mass of the spacecraft is 3241 kg, with an additional 2750 kg of propellant and 10 kg of helium pressurant. The mission carries 9 primary science instruments, plus radio science and gravity investigations using the telecommunications system. Radiation monitors for engineering may also provide science return. Total mass of the science payload is roughly 350 kg.

The propulsion module includes the truncated cone at one end of the cylinder. It is 3 meters long and 1.5 meters in diameter, holding 24 engines and the fuel and helium pressurant tanks. Propulsion is provided by monomethylhydrazine / mixed oxides of nitrogen. Power is provided by the two solar array wings, each 14.2 meters by 4.1 meters and made up of five 4.13 x 2.47 meter panels. It holds a total of 28120 Azur 3G28 solar cells. Total power is estimated to be 728 W at the distance of Jupiter at mission end of life.

Communications are via the high-gain antenna and smaller antennas. Guidance and attitude control will use a series of star cameras and reaction wheels. Thermal control is achieved using insulating blankets, radiators, heaters, and a system of pumps and piping circulating fluid. A vault, a box composed of 9.2 mm thick sheets of aluminum-zinc alloy, protects the spacecraft electronics from the harsh radiation environment at Jupiter. The science instruments mounted are primarily on the Europa-facing and forward facing (in direction of travel) sides of the bus.

Mission Profile

The mission is scheduled for launch in October 2024, with a launch window opening on October 10. Europa Clipper will take a Mars Earth Gravity Assist (MEGA) trajectory, with the Mars assist on 27 February 2025 and the Earth assist on 12 January 2026. It will reach Jupiter and go into orbit on 11 April 2030. It will go into a highly elliptical orbit that will allow approximately 40 - 45 flybys of Europa, at distances of 2700 km to 25 km above the surface. It will also fly by Ganymede and Callisto as part of its orbit-shaping maneuvers.

Alternate Names

  • Europa Multiple-Flyby Mission
  • EuropaClipper
  • urn:nasa:pds:context:instrument_host:spacecraft.clipper

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 
Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 Heavy
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 3241 kg
Nominal Power: 728 W

Funding Agency

  • Unknown (United States)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Robert T PappalardoProject ScientistNASA Jet Propulsion
Dr. Louise ProckterDeputy Project ScientistApplied Physics
Dr. David SenskeDeputy Project ScientistNASA Jet Propulsion
Dr. Curt NieburProgram ScientistNASA
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